5th c. BCEonyx7/16 × 5/8 × 1/2 in. (1.11 × 1.59 × 1.27 cm)

Gift of Edward Perry Warren, Esq., Honorary Degree 1926


This carved onyx cameo depicts a scene from Greek mythology and exhibits characteristics of late archaic Etruscan scarabs. The scarab shape was borrowed from Egyptian and Phoenician cultures, and Etruscan gem carvers combined the form with scenes and characters of their own myths. On this gem Poseidon pulls his trident out of a rock formation prompting a stream of water to flow. This illustration alludes to the myth of Poseidon’s creation of the Lernaean spring as an expression of his love for the daughter of King Danaus of Argos, Amymone, who appealed to him to end a drought.

While great variation exists among carved scarabs from the ancient Mediterranean world, there are several decorative qualities that align this scarab with the late archaic Etruscan trends. One such characteristic is the diagonally hatched border that decorates the intaglio of Poseidon. Additionally, one of the most distinguishing elements is the subtly carved carination—the ridge that separates the two wings—referred to as the elytra. This detail stands in opposition to the archaic Greek preference for a more pronounced, higher relief carination. Edward Perry Warren’s many donations of gems and cameos, particularly those that demonstrate such a degree of artistic skill in carving, underscore his interest in luxury items and the leisure culture of the ancient Mediterranean world.

—Brooke Wrubel


Before 1915, collection of Edward Perry Warren; 1915, gifted to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art by Edward Perry Warren.

Edward Perry Warren

A testament to his impact as an influential twentieth-century American antiquities collector, Edward Perry Warren’s (1860–1928, H ’26) name is linked to hundreds of ancient objects housed in institutions across the United States, including more than five hundred works at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art alone.

Region: Italy See all 18
Map of Mediterranean Sea with Italy highlighted.